Assembly Truth (2): Ideals of an Assembly

Likeness to Christ is Unmistakable

(2Cor 3:18, 1John 3:2-3, Psa 17:15)

How fitting it would be for us to be like Him to a superlative degree, since we are gathered to His Name and Person, seeking to own His Lordship. He is the center of our gathering and we remember Him each Lord’s Day, but we know that there are some denominational believers who are so much like their Lord that it puts some of us to shame. Any believer who so manifests Christ should be gathered to the One Whom they are so much like!

The Holy Spirit is so pleased with all the moral glories of Christ that He wants each one of us to be more like Him. It is possible for a believer to have so much joy in the Lord that it doesn’t seem possible that he could hold any more, but it is not possible for any of us to reach such a plateau of likeness to Christ that there can be no further progress. None of us will be perfectly like Him while here on earth, but may the Lord help each one to be more like Him for His glory.

Love to all the Saints is Unfading

Even in reception, we should show love to those whom we ask to sit back and observe the Lord’s Supper. As well, when we carry out the discipline of 1 Corinthians 5, we should do it with a view to the person’s restoration. First Corinthians 16:14 is one of three verses that should govern everything that is done in the assembly (the others are 1Cor 14:26, 40). All corrective ministry should be done with the love Paul had for the Corinthians. He was so concerned that he sent Titus to find out how they had received his corrective epistle! That is why he had no rest in his spirit (2Cor 2:12) when he found not Titus his brother. Even though a door was opened to him of the Lord in Troas, he went on to Macedonia.

Those two verses are an unfinished story until we read “For when we were come to Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God that comforted those that are cast down comforted us by the coming of Titus”(2Cor 7:5). Titus brought the good news that the Corinthians had made things right.

So we can make two balancing statements. It would be a grand thing if all corrective ministry was given with the love like that which Paul had when he wrote his first epistle. It would also be wonderful if all corrective ministry, like that which had been given by Paul in 1 Corinthians, was received as the Corinthians received it, for they made things right.

In Hebrews 6:10 God commends the Hebrew believers. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His Name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” In Hebrews 13:1 the writer exhorts, “Let brotherly love continue.” He is implying that it will continue unless we somehow dam it up. When did our love for the brethren begin? It began with conversion (1John 4:14). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” When I was born again, I automatically loved the brethren. But with me there was one difference. Since I had been striving for perfection for many months, I not only loved all my brethren, but I thought that they were all perfect! I continued thinking that way for a few months. Brother Frank Macmillan said to me one day, “You don’t want to think we are all perfect. If you do, you will be sadly disappointed because we are not perfect.” He was letting me down easy from the shock that God’s people are not perfect. And of course, I soon found out that I wasn’t perfect either.

In over 70 years of hearing many messages from God’s Word, none had a greater impact on me than a message brother Macmillan gave one Lord’s Day in ministry on 1 Corinthians 13. I got so much from that message that I deliberately walked the last six miles to my home so that I could meditate undistracted on what I had just heard.

The late William Rodgers of Omagh Northern Ireland has pointed out that if the Corinthians had had the love of 1 Corinthinas 13, they would have been spared their troubles in a sevenfold way. They would not have been puffed up against one another in chapter 1 because “love is not puffed up.” They would not have tolerated the fornicator in chapter 5 because “love rejoiceth not in iniquity.” They would not have defrauded one another and gone to law against one another in chapter 6 because “love suffereth long and is kind.” They would not have stumbled their weaker brethren in chapters 8 and 10 because “love seeketh not her own.” None of the brethren would have been drunken and none of the sisters would have had their heads uncovered in chapter 11 because “love behaveth itself not unseemly.” Those with a lesser gift would not have envied those with a greater gift in chapter 12 because “love envieth not.” Those with a greater gift would not have been pushing it on others in chapter 14 because “love vaunteth not itself.”

It is no wonder that the late Fisher Hunter referred to chapter 13 as “church lubrication.” Every assembly needs this church lubrication. We also appreciate Matthew 18:20, but it is good for us to be reminded that the rest of Matthew 18 has a lot to say about our relationships one with another. That is part of the truth of God and being in right relationships with our brethren and sisters is essential to assembly testimony.

“With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:2-3). These two verses indicate that we should make allowances for one another. Everyone of us could wear a sign, “Please be patient with me – God isn’t through with me yet.” I am thankful that it is recorded of first century Christianity that the heathen said of the Christians, “Behold how they love one another!” There are still unsaved people today who notice the love of the brethren one for another, as the Lord Jesus said in John 13:14-15.

Labor for the Lord is Unceasing

Paul brings his masterly chapter on resurrection (1Cor 15) to a climax in the closing verse (58), “Wherefore” (in light of all that he has been saying in the chapter), “my beloved brethren” (expressing his love for the Corinthian believers), “be ye steadfast” (Paul wants them to have a fixed purpose of heart), “unmovable” (he wants them to cleave to the truth and not be easily moved away from it), “always abounding in the work of the Lord forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (“In the Lord” suggests in His control, with His strength and for His glory, using methods in keeping with the Lordship of Christ. As Hebrews 12:28 says: “Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear.” And “Let us not become weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:9-10).